Shark Bay World Heritage

3rd – 4th September 2017

Sunday 3rd (Happy Fathers Day)

Here at Hamelin Pool are the oldest living organisms on earth – stromatolites! I must say I did find the explanation of their growth confusing, something to do with Cyanobacteria, light, accretion and the presence of a hypersaline environment. Anyway all these factors come together here at Hamelin Bay where it is full of these cauliflower-mushroom shapes about 50cm high living in the littoral zone.

Stromatolites at low tide. Shark Bay

We also found the shell quarry fascinating – I’d never heard of a shell quarry before.

A building block of shell. Shark Bay

Tiny cockle shells, Fragum shells, have been swept up onto the beach over the centuries and become compacted so hard that the early white settlers were able to quarry out blocks of this coquina with cross cut saws to use as building materials. The coquina (compacted shells) are up to 9 metres deep in places.

The shell (coquina) quarry.

Heading further into Shark Bay World Heritage area we stopped at Nanga Bay, a pretty Bay with crystal-clear water, Shell Beach where we sat on dunes formed of the tiny cockle shells,

Steve, reclining on an ocean of shells.

then checked out the camp sites at Goulet Bluff, Whalebone Bay, Fowlers campsite and finally Eagle Bluff where we’re camped tonight. There’s a boardwalk along the headland here which gives lovely coastal views and where you can look down into the shallows to see sharks and stingrays. We saw a couple of sharks.
Our campsite is quite idyllic, just a little in from the cliff edge overlooking the bay. Wonderful sunset!

Sunset at our campsite, Eagle Bluff, Shark Bay

Monday 4th

Monkey Mia Resort, on the eastern bay, is renown for the wild dolphins that come in daily to be hand-fed. However, a lot of people also complain about the cost of entry to the area and you may not see any dolphins; they are, after all, wild. The dolphin-feeding takes place at 7.30am and may be repeated once or twice more before 11am, if the dolphins come in.

A powered site at the Monkey Mia caravan park costs $72 – YIKES! We’ve seen plenty of dolphins before, so we camped about 45km away last night at Eagle Bluff and moseyed on in about 10am. We had brunch in the motorhome before wandering in and, would you believe it, 6 dolphins just arrived to be fed. How tinny was that!

Those two dolphins are hoping the fish they’re about be fed will be ‘that’ big. Monkey Mia, Shark Bay

Despite there being large pods of dolphins here, there are only 6 dolphins they feed and then only give them about 10% of their daily needs. It’s well-supervised and studied by marine biologists who give a talk about dolphin behaviour before the feeding. Despite our nonchalance we both enjoyed it.

Bottle-nose dolphin at Monkey Mia, Shark Bay

We had a lovely walk along the beach and enjoyed a coffee on the deck of the waterfront cafe. I didn’t begrudge the $9 ea entrance fee.

The jetty, Monkey Mia, Shark Bay

Leaving Monkey Mia we drove into Francois Peron National Park. Big signs greeted us informing us it was 4WD-only roads and to lower our tyre pressures to 20. Truck tyres like we drive on can’t be lowered, only minimally if at all. So in we headed to Big Lagoon along 12 km of sandy track with some of it very soft. The good old Trakka, in 4WD mode, tyres still inflated, didn’t falter.  Big Lagoon is a pretty inlet with a narrow deep channel but wide shallow areas – perfect for kayaking. The picnic facilities here are superb – large covered gazebos with gas BBQs and picnic tables, as well as great open-air areas all on a boardwalk. We enjoyed a cuppa here before heading back out to Denham.

Lovely facilities for picnickers at Big Lagoon, Francois Peron NP

Our plans for the next week don’t include many places where we’ll be able to shop, so a stop at Denham IGA was essential, and we also filled our water tanks – the first time we’ve ever had to pay for water. Denham is a lovely little coastal tourist town.

Our first time buying water to refill the motorhome. A good facility – not begrudged at all. 15 litres for $1

Our campsite tonight is just down the road a bit from last nights, at Fowlers campsite, right on the beach. Another $15/night site with no facilities. Again we’re the only campers here. Another beautiful sunset followed by a peaceful night, apart from the wind! What is it with these constant coastal winds!

Our beachside campsite, Fowlers Bay, Shark Bay

For more photos taken during these last couple of days CLICK HERE.

Kalbarri National Park

29th August – 2nd September 2017

Tuesday 29th
It rained or hailed (small, thankfully – no damage to Priscilla) all night. The sandy road out was OK – still some water across the road, but the base was firm. I think it might have filled in the corrugations a bit – they didn’t seem so bad on the way out.
We headed to the coast to stay at Kalbarri. Kalbarri National Park has an inland section and a coastal section. The coastal section has many points of interest you can drive in to from the main road to see the striking coastline. We stopped at Rainbow Valley and did the 3km loop walk to Mushroom Rock. Lovely walk as it took us down to ocean level.

Mushroom Rock. Hmm maybe not ‘that’ outstanding, but a lovely walk to see it all the same.

After checking in to the Murchison Caravan Park we got the bikes out and went for a ride along the foreshore. Great walking/cycling paths Kalbarri – thank you.
Sunset was glorious.

Cycle up to the Zuytdorp Lookout at Kalbarri. The monument tells the story of the Dutch East Indies ships that ventured down this far. Apparently to make the best use of the winds they would come as far south as the 26th parallel, which happens to be about here, before turning. However, some came a bit close to these treacherous shores and many ships were lost. The Batavia foundered in 1628. The Zuytdorp in 1712. It carried a rich cargo of 248,000 freshly minted silver coins along with 200 passengers. Hundreds of coins have been recovered from the famous ‘carpet of silver’ in and around the wreck. The precise circumstances of the wreck remain a mystery, because no survivors reached Batavia (Java) to tell the tale. Some did live for a time in Shark Bay, where they were helped by local Aboriginal people. This contact with Europeans was probably the first ever made by Australia’s Indigenous people to last longer than a brief encounter.

Wednesday 30th
Today we’re doing the Bigurda Trail in Kalbarri NP which follows the coastline for 8km from Eagle Gorge to Natural Bridge – a 17km return walk. The walk started about 50 metres from the cliffs walking through flowering ground covers of so many different types. It was a sensory delight. Then the path curved in to follow the cliff edge.

Walking along the Bigurda Trail.

The humpback whales have just begun returning south. They travel from the Antarctic in June/July to the warm waters of the Kimberley’s where they either breed or give birth. A whale pregnancy is 12 months long. From September to November they return to their feeding grounds in the Antarctic, the female whales either newly pregnant or with a calf.  We saw so many whales about 100 metres offshore breaching, slapping their pectoral fins, diving to display their tail flukes and just generally having a whale of a time (hee hee). It was pretty cute when the calves breached.  In the protected cove beneath where we sat for brunch was a mother and calf resting – maybe 10-20 metres offshore. The calf drinks about 240 litres of milk a day – no wonder the mother needs a rest!

Mother and baby whale, resting.

Stopping so frequently to be delighted by whale antics it was a slow walk out. The return walk was faster – there were fewer whales and they performed less frequently, and besides we were all ‘whaled out’ by then. “Oh it’s only another whale breaching.”

Natural Arch – the turning point of our walk.

Back to Priscilla and the caravan park and a hot shower and I discovered I’d picked up a tick in my cubital fossa (google it!).
Fish and salad at the tavern and an early night for us. Hope my arm doesn’t drop off overnight – I think the head is still in it!

Thursday 31st
Arm still intact (I’m sure the head is still there! – arm-dropping-off is just a matter of time), we grocery shopped and had a last sit on the beach in Kalbarri before heading into the River Gorges section of Kalbarri NP.

Breakfast on the beach at Kalbarri.

The Murchison River has cut an 80km swathe of gorges through beautiful reds and creamy white sandstone to form quite spectacular scenery.

Just look at the beautiful rock layers. Z-Bend Gorge, Kalbarri NP

Today we went to Z-bend Lookout and walked the Z-Bend River Trail. It’s called Z-Bend because the faults in the sandstone caused the river, and subsequent Gorge, to form a big Z. I won’t rave on about how beautiful it is, just check out the photos. The River Trail was only 2.5km return, but it did take us down (and then back up again!) over huge rocks, sandy boulders, narrow crevices and several ladder climbs to the river. Definitely worth every slippery step!

Descending the ladder – that definitely helped the descent, and ascent a lot! Kalbarri NP, Z-Bend

Tonight we’re camped at a very pretty spot on the banks of the Murchison River at the historic Murchison Station ($25/n unpwred), along with about another 20 vans! Murchison Station is a working farm – they round up feral goats and sell them!

Friday 1st September

Back to the River Gorges this morning to walk to Nature’s Window and do the Loop Hike. The wildflowers along the drive in are beautiful – a whole field of smoke bush looked ethereal.
Nature’s Window is a pretty amazing geological formation and we did the tourist thing and posed in it.

Looking through Nature’s Window to the Murchison River, below. Kalbarri NP

Onwards from here the 8km Loop Trail took us along the ridge before a steep descent to the river. This is a Class 4 walk and, yes, the descent was challenging. However at the base, as we heaved a sigh of relief having descended safely, a sign met us stating that the next 5 km would be a lot more strenuous and to turn around now should we not be ‘experienced’ bushwalkers. Did that deter us? Not for a second!

View of the river and countryside from the cliff top we followed for awhile.

There were some very tricky parts I’ll grant you. Firstly walking along a narrow ledge at the base of the cliff just above where it plunged into the chilly Murchison River, then a little further on it was ‘crawl on hands and knees’ along the narrow ledge, under the overhanging rock, above the river. Great fun really – once we’d successfully negotiated it!

Ahh now I see why they say it’s difficult. Here I’m attempting to go to a lower level so that should I fall in I wouldn’t hurt myself too much. However … that came to a dead end. See the protruding ledges just above my left shoulder – that’s the trail!!

Anyway, all in all, a great walk with amazing views of the weathered cliff faces and the river winding through the Gorge.

A close-up of the beautiful cliff face on the other side of the Murchison R to the Trail. These layers remind me of the Thousand Layer Cake (kek lapis) I ate in Malaysia.

There was some wildlife along the way too – euros (a type of kangaroo), black swans, herons, numerous other birds and tiny fish in the river.

A white-necked heron looking for tiny fish in the Murchison River. Loop Trail, Kalbarri NP

A quiet night back at Murchison Station camp beside the now tamed Murchison River.

Saturday 2nd

As we left the Kalbarri region we stopped in at two more Gorge lookouts in Kalbarri National Park – Hawks Head and Ross Graham lookouts.

Murchison River from the Hawks Head lookout. That protruding rock on the upper right is meant to be the hawk’s head – a little imagination helps.

Continuing north and more wildflowers – this time a field of bright yellow-flowering acacia bushes, all about a metre high.
A detour took us to the Warrabanno Chimney – constructed in 1858 for a lead smelter.

Behind me is a void. Must have been built up like this to create a draft.

A long drive (for us) – nearly 300 km today to finally arrive at Hamelin Pool Caravan Park in the Shark Bay World Heritage Region.

To see more photos from our time in Kalbarri CLICK HERE.


Hutt River Province

25th August – 28th August 2017

Friday 25th
Wow! It felt fantastic to be on the road again. The sun is finally shining! Leaving Perth we drove through the beautiful Swan Valley vineyards again. I love the look of vineyards and this area also makes life good for tourists by having chocolatiers and breweries and strawberry farms, to say nothing of the cellar door tastings and vineyard restaurants. But it was ‘look but don’t touch’ for us this morning as we headed north.
The vineyards soon gave way to grazing properties, lush and green with fat cattle, sheep and frolicking lambs, then horsey areas and crops – some mangoes and fields ablaze in bright yellow flowering canola. The wildflowers were beginning with masses of arum lilies blooming beside the road. A very enjoyable drive.
We brunched at Bullcreek – excellent little park in town, then drove through Gingin for a look. Agriculture soon disappeared and lovely wallum country with lots of banksias took its place – and mines! We’re also back on Road Train roads again. Oh how quickly one forgets!
Tonight we’re camped at Drummonds Reserve, a small free camping area in the bush with no facilities. We’re the only ones here – that’s a big difference to the last 5 weeks. We went for a walk up the road after settling in and found the Emu Downs Solar Project. There are dozens and dozens of electricity-generating wind turbines at the site and they’re now establishing a huge solar panel array. Great to see.

Saturday 26th

I woke this beautiful morning to the tree outside my window filled with (quiet) pink galahs. We moved on to Badgingarra, a tiny town with amazingly good recreation facilities (tennis courts, ovals, basketball, etc), none of which were in use this morning. What does that tell you?

Anyway we brunched here, then went for a 5 kilometre walk in Badgingarra NP where the wildflowers are blooming. The variety of plants is astounding.

Steve admiring the view from the top of the rise on our walk at Badgingarra.

Driving on to the free camp in Dongara we passed kilometre after kilometre of wildflowers by the roadside, the most prolific being banksias and wattle.

Sunday 27th

What direction do you think the winds come from?

Sunday Brunch was had at the Seaspray Cafe beside the beach. Tasty meals, good turmeric latte!

Dongara’s claim to fame – crayfish.

The Irwin River flows through Dongara and the council has created several walks along this river and down the beaches. We did a 5km circuit of the river, crossing the bridge at one end and the tidal sandbar at its mouth – lucky it was low tide. Well done council – it was a very enjoyable walk.

Walking alongside the Irwin River, at Dongara.

Today we leave Australia! We’re camped tonight at the Principality of Hutt River. The drive here was very enjoyable. The wildflowers are coming out all along the roadside, while the paddocks are a lush green with 6” high wheat, or vibrant yellow with flowering canola.

Canola fields.

We didn’t arrive until about 5pm so will explore tomorrow. The camping area is good – large, treed, heaps of room, shower (basic) and toilets – $10/night. Only two other campers and a heap of kangaroos here.


Hutt River Province. The Prince is in.

Monday 28th
We met the very entertaining and spritely 92-year-old Prince Leonard today who took us through the museum and talked non-stop about many of the exhibits – mostly gifts given to the Principality by overseas dignitaries. Australia still doesn’t recognise Hutt River as having seceded even though it was proclaimed in 1970. The story of the secession is one of injustice-fuelled determination leading to a legal battle with the State which Hutt River appears to have won, though ungraciously semi-acknowledged by the government.

The 92-year-old Prince Leonard welcoming us to his Principality.

In the ‘government office’ you can purchase a visa, stamps, etc. There are several other buildings, the most ‘intriguing’ being an open-air display of the very complicated mathematical formula Prince Leonard has designed to work out the number which signifies creation and spirituality of every creature … yeah, can’t say I understood it myself.
Their hassles with the government persist – apparently the government is now suing them for undeclared and unpaid GST. Seriously, I can’t see the point. We’d do better to just support them a little in their endeavours – there are bigger fish to fry then Prince Leonard and his Principality.

On the Princess’ throne.

From here we’ve headed to the coast – to Lucky Bay. The last 6km in is unsealed and badly corrugated in parts. The campground ($15/n) is situated between rows of sand dunes. New, clean toilets and very attractive shelter gazebos with picnic tables are randomly placed along a few hundred metres of camping grounds. The campsites are cleared sandy sites between low coastal foliage. We attempted a walk to the beach, but there’s no Track and lots of dunes covered in vegetation to climb over, so we abandoned that idea. We’re the only campers here tonight. If it weren’t for thunderstorms, lightning, rain and hail and the constant pounding of the surf it would be a very quiet night.

To see more of the photos from this part of our travels CLICK HERE